If there was ever a man who was generous gracious and good That was my dad, the man A human being so true he could live like a king cos he knew The real pleasure in life To be devoted to and always stand by me so I’d be unafraid and free Song for my Father, Horace Silver
The day before yesterday a little bird flew right in front of the kitchen window, in the morning when I was doing the dishes. It twisted in midair and then flew straight up! I’ve never seen a bird do that before. I said to it out loud: “Wow! You are so happy!” Then at 6pm, Mansur’s beloved twin sister, Kathy, called and told me that he had died that morning.
As those of you who know me know, Mansur was my spiritual guru and my musical mentor and, more than that even . . . my dad! (See the lyrics above, which Mansur used to sing on my gigs as far back as 1999, when I first started to sing). Just a few days ago I was lamenting to my friend Deon that I was really missing him lately because, up until he had his latest stroke a couple of years ago, we would speak nearly every day. The last time we spoke, a few weeks ago, he wasn’t able to say anything beyond “What’s happening, Tess!” But I am grateful to be one of the few people he still remembered. And Kathy told me yesterday that whenever she mentioned my name it lifted his spirits.
He certainly lifted mine. He was a giant influence on me in every possible way, advising me on everything! Love. Men. Spiritual matters. Music. He heard all my compositions and lyrics first before anyone else. And he taught me to sing my story and not worry about whether or not it was jazz. He came to nearly all my gigs before his first stroke and still struggled out to see me afterwards, even though it involved coming downtown all the way from Harlem. He was a deep, deep soul. And wise! He didn’t know everything but he knew 99% (especially about the men!) He sang like that too! As you know, if you ever saw him sing. Man, he is the only person I know who got signed to a record label (Pau! Records) without lifting a finger!
And he really loved me like a parent should. And, as is clear from the video of him singing (click the picture above to watch him singing on my gig at the 55 Bar), I adored him! When he had his first stroke in 1999 I practically lived at the hospital and we told the doctors I was his daughter – so they would share all the information with me. It was my honor to be there for him, along with our friend Connie. He gave us new names. Mine was Jemilah, which means “One who is Beautiful.” I feel blessed to have shared the same era with him, let alone benefitted from his mentorship.
I had the strong urge to call him on Sunday but I didn’t remember until 3.30pm, which was too late in the day (his sister was there daily from noon to 3 and she would hold the phone for him). That’s a lesson to follow our urges! And also to stop being so damn “New York busy” – something he never was. If you called him at 4AM (which I rarely did but … have done in my life) he was right there for you. A lot of people have written to tell me that he really loved me, which is lovely of them. But I knew that. He told me all the time.
I’m going to miss him even more now but at least I truly believe he is happy. That little bird told me.